Topic: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – “Marathon Valley,” slicing through a large crater’s rim on Mars, has provided fruitful research targets for NASA’s Opportunity rover since July 2015, but the rover may soon move on.
Opportunity recently collected a sweeping panorama from near the western end of this east-west valley. The vista shows an area where the mission investigated evidence about how water altered the ancient rocks and, beyond that, the wide floor of Endeavour Crater and the crater’s eastern rim about 14 miles (22 kilometers) away.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – For the first time, an instrument onboard an orbiting spacecraft has measured the methane emissions from a single, specific leaking facility on Earth’s surface.
The observation — by the Hyperion spectrometer on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) — is an important breakthrough in our ability to eventually measure and monitor emissions of this potent greenhouse gas from space.
In a new paper accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a research team with scientist David R. Thompson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, detailed the observation, which occurred over Aliso Canyon, near Porter Ranch, California.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has analyzed its 12th drilled sample of Mars. This sample came from mudstone bedrock, which the rover resumed climbing in late May after six months studying other features.
Since the previous time Curiosity drilled into this “Murray formation” layer of lower Mount Sharp, the mission has examined active sand dunes along the rover’s route, then crossed a remnant plateau of fractured sandstone that once more extensively covered the Murray formation.
Written by Kim Henry
Promontory, UT – The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a hotter-than-normal summer for Utah, but at Orbital ATK’s test facility in Promontory, crews are bundling up to chill down the booster for the world’s most powerful rocket, NASA’s Space Launch System.
The booster is being cooled to approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit ahead of its second qualification ground test June 28th. Testing at the thermal extremes experienced by the booster on the launch pad is important to understanding the effects of temperature on the performance of how the propellant burns.
Washington, D.C. – This enhanced color view from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft zooms in on the southeastern portion of Pluto’s great ice plains, where at lower right the plains border rugged, dark highlands informally named Krun Macula. (Krun is the lord of the underworld in the Mandaean religion, and a ‘macula’ is a dark feature on a planetary surface.)
Pluto is believed to get its dark red color from tholins, complex molecules found across much of the surface. Krun Macula rises 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) above the surrounding plain – informally named Sputnik Planum – and is scarred by clusters of connected, roughly circular pits that typically reach between 5 and 8 miles (8 and 13 kilometers) across, and up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) deep.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno mission is now 26 days and 11.1 million miles (17.8 million kilometers) away from the largest planetary inhabitant in our solar system — Jupiter. On the evening of July 4th, Juno will fire its main engine for 35 minutes, placing it into a polar orbit around the gas giant.
It will be a daring planetary encounter: Giant Jupiter lies in the harshest radiation environment known, and Juno has been specially designed to safely navigate the brand new territory.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Water is a hot topic in the study of exoplanets, including “hot Jupiters,” whose masses are similar to that of Jupiter, but which are much closer to their parent star than Jupiter is to the sun. They can reach a scorching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 degrees Celsius), meaning any water they host would take the form of water vapor.
Astronomers have found many hot Jupiters with water in their atmospheres, but others appear to have none. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, wanted to find out what the atmospheres of these giant worlds have in common.
Written by Francis Reddy
Greenbelt, MD – LISA Pathfinder, a mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA) with contributions from NASA, has successfully tested a key technology needed to build a space-based observatory for detecting gravitational waves.
These tiny ripples in the fabric of space, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, were first seen last year by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
Seismic, thermal and other noise sources limit LIGO to higher-frequency gravitational waves around 100 cycles per second (hertz).
Written by Maria-Jose Viñas
Greenbelt, MD – Operation IceBridge, NASA’s airborne survey of polar ice, ended its eighth spring Arctic campaign on May 21st. During their five weeks of operations, mission scientists carried out six research flights over sea ice and ten over land ice.
“We collected data over key portions of the Greenland Ice Sheet, like the fast-changing Zachariae Isstrom Glacier, and we got the broad geographic coverage of Arctic sea ice we needed,” said Nathan Kurtz, IceBridge’s project scientist and a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – On May 11th, a sealed capsule containing fungi and bacteria fell from the sky and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Microbiologist Kasthuri Venkateswaran could hardly wait to see what was inside it.
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Venkateswaran, who goes by Venkat, studies microbial life — the wild world of organisms too small for us to see with our eyes. Among his many research endeavors, Venkat has leading roles on two microbial experiments that recently returned from the International Space Station.
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